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Guilty Or Not, Nothing Justifies The Media Mobbing Rhea Chakraborty. The Invasion Of Her Personal Space Needs To Stop

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It’s rather unfortunate (not for me, but for the patriarchy) that I am a woman who dares to have an opinion. Over the weekend, when I saw photos of Rhea Chakraborty being mobbed by the media on her way to being interrogated by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in relation to boyfriend Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, I obviously wanted to express how the images made me feel. It’s not that hard to figure how you should feel about it if you’re human. She was surrounded by paparazzi, journalists, cameramen, with zero respect for her personal space, microphones literally thrust against her body, not even a hair’s breadth between her and the mob. It was a literal stampede unfolding before our eyes. That should make anyone sick, concerned even about how far we’ve taken our ‘demands’ for justice that we’ve forgotten basic human decency.

As anticipated, I got trolled for my opinions, called a ‘Rhea sympathiser’ and got some choice facts from the SSR ‘murder case’ thrown in my face as justified basis for Rhea not being innocent and therefore being justifiably treated like that. Again, unfortunately for these people on my friends list, I am also a former law student with a penchant for not resting my case so easily. And so, when they pushed, I pushed back.

One of the first, most basic things that we as law students are taught is that in our great nation, an accused is innocent until proven guilty. Of course, when these laws were written, the lawmakers did not account for media trials. In Rhea Chakraborty’s case, we’ve already had Twitter conspiracy theorists and WhatsApp Uncles arrive on the judgement that Rhea has played a part in Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide which, I might add, is still under investigation for being a murder. Having played judge, jury and executioner thus, they’re completely okay with how everything is proceeding. In fact, if you were to argue that this was wrong, they’d turn prosecution lawyers and throw case details from the news channels at you.

Now at this point, you could try countering them by asking, “But how do you know all these statements are the truth? How do we trust the media these days? When state police departments are shifting blame on each other and and the whole system is corrupt, and when political parties are using the tragic death of a rising star for election propaganda, how do you trust any statement that comes out?” But that’s a debate for another time. And we’d also be deviating from our cause here, which is this—guilty or not, Rhea Chakraborty does not deserve to be treated the way she is being treated currently.

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Before you pick switch windows to troll or abuse me, I have absolutely no opinion on her guilt. Why? Because that isn’t my job, is it? Until I am provided by a final slate of evidence by a court which convicts her, or any other suspect, for SSR’s passing, I’ll continue to believe that the actor was battling mental health issues. Meanwhile, if the intelligence agencies of our country want to investigate further, it only attests to their need to be thorough, and not to any one person’s guilt. But the harassment meted out to Rhea Chakraborty, a woman who is merely accused at this point of playing some role in the hitherto unconfirmed nature of her boyfriend’s death, feels an overkill.

We’ve seen rapists, accused and convicted, persons and politicians named in the #MeToo movement, who’ve been treated with more respect than Rhea has. As we you read this, know that a Netflix  documentary series called Bad Boy Billionaires is under dispute because the alleged scamster billionaires being featured in it have sought a stay on its release. These are men accused of allegedly duping the nation of thousands of crores of rupees, and yet, quite respectfully, not only are their pleas being entertained, but also they’re chilling somewhere abroad, practically untouchable. Similarly, after the release of the Tiger King documentary, Carole Baskin become the subject of a conspiracy theory alleging that she killed her husband and fed him to the tigers so she could inherit his property. You know what she is up to now? Not being mobbed that’s for sure, but she is prepping for a stint on Dancing With The Stars!

And here we are.

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The outrage against ‘Team Rhea’ is loud. There are many who believe that Sushant Singh Rajput’s case would not have come this far had it not been for the media attention it received. However, there are also those who are speaking up about this vile and vicious attack on Rhea’s physical person, in the name of media attention. Her guilty status notwithstanding, this is a clear violation of the law that we are so desperate to uphold here. And then to wonder why she deserves police protection! Umm, do you not see why?

Think about it for a second. All this hue and cry over SSR’s mental health and him being tortured by powerful people into giving his life. Aren’t we pulling off something similar here? Who vouches for the safety of Rhea Chakraborty’s mental health in this scenario? What if the final verdict arrives that she is not guilty, but all this ruthless hate-mongering leaves an indelible mark on her psyche that doesn’t go away despite her record being wiped clean?

Apart from the apparent witch hunt that is going on in the name of justice, a journalist on Twitter raised a rather important about another gender bias that was in play here.

In addition, it might seem a little frivolous in the grand scheme of seeking justice for Sushant Singh Rajput. But excuse me sirs, did we not decide, together as a planet, to maintain social distance in all our endeavours since March now? Do we want Rhea, if proven guilty, to be in jail, or is this some twisted revenge fantasy to infect her with COVID-19 first to make her pay or something?

If all of the above points are hard to process, there’s one final exercise left for us to try. Imagine you in her place. Not as a murder-accused but as simply an accused in a high profile case. You know you are innocent; your family knows you’re innocent. And yet, the other party is rich and well-connected, enough to make it look like you’re guilty. You appear at the police station, stepping outside your car, and suddenly, a swarm of journalists, cameramen and every single troll descends upon you, wanting you to say something scandalous so they can turn it into a profitable controversy. Will you be comfortable? Will you sympathise with them, or think “Oh well, they are just doing their jobs na”?

Rhea is an accused, yes. Nobody wants to take that away from the crusaders of #JusticeForSSR. But she is also a human being, a woman. Just like you, or your female relatives who will wait for a female constable to escort them and won’t be taken into police custody after dark, even she has certain rights to her personal space. And for male journos and paps to invade it and violate her like this…. We’re not thinking about our ‘sanskriti’ now? Just because we believe someone is a criminal, do we also forget the rules of good conduct that apply to us, the ‘good’ people? If we stoop as low as them, what is the difference between us and criminals, then?

PS: The media that thronged to get that one glimpse of Rhea outside the NCB in that manner did so because they were supplying to a demand created by us. If we seek information about better, more important things that need attention in our country right now, maybe, just maybe, we’ll be using these relentless forces for good than evil.

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